A sermon outline introducing Crestmont’s upcoming Year of Jubilee
I. 40 Days!
I use to allow myself to be greatly disappointed the Sunday following Easter. It always felt like such a letdown. The energy level goes down, the crowds disperse. Its business as usual.
I have since changed my thinking on the matter. Now I see it as the Sunday when the true believers in the resurrection are present. Those who still seek the Lord in his church after the Easter morning glitz is gone for another year. This is the real Easter crowd. Those who say Jesus is alive, what next?
Last week we looked at the conversion of Saul from Tarsus, who went from being a terrorist to becoming a missionary. Paul’s desire was to please God through his works but after meeting Jesus on the road to Demascus, he no longer trusted in his own performance.
The Bible tells us that following the Sunday of the resurrection, Jesus remained here for another 40 days until the ascension when he went back to heaven and sat down at the Father’s right hand.
What do you think he was doing for those 40 days? Scripture records 10 resurrection appearances, 5 of them happening on the same day. All together they occupy just a few hours of combined time. So what else was he doing?
Was he appearing in other cultures around the world. Was he buzzing in out of time warps and wormholes to visit other dimensions of reality? Who knows for sure?
But in last appearance, his disciples ask him Lord, what’s next? “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Is this when we win? Is this when the Romans tuck their tails and run?
Jesus says, None ya – He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.
So instead of the restoration of Israel being what’s next, he expands their vision and given them an assignment – But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
The word for witnesses is the same Greek work for martyr. You will be my martyrs. The disciples were like, is it time for us to win and Jesus says in affect, no its time to die. Jesus is so hard to pin down isn’t he.
They are to die to their agendas and to take on Christ’s which is to share the gospel to the ends of the earth – that’s what’s next.
What I find so amazing about the Bible’s description of the resurrection appearances is how ordinary it all seems. A private dinner party, two men walking along a road, a woman weeping in a garden, some fisherman on a lake.
You would think it would look more like a Schwarzenegger movie – The last word of Jesus on the cross being, “I’ll be back”. Then shows up at Pilate’s porch or at the temple and say’s “I’m back” That’s what the disciples were hoping for.
Nothing like that happens. He appears to small clusters of people in a remote area or a closed room. Outside of appearing to Saul, Jesus didn’t kick down the doors of the religious leaders and say I told you so.
The appearances of Jesus have a whimsical and playful quality to them. Jesus seems to like going incognito and then reveals himself and disappears. Or he walks through locked doors.
My favorite appearance is in John when seven of the disciples have returned to fishing and Jesus is cooking breakfast on the shore and shouts “you caught anything” No, “Try fishing from the other side of the boat”
Their nets are so full they can’t bring in all the fish and the light bulb goes off in Peter’s head – It’s the Lord and dives in the water a swims to shore. The last time he looked in Jesus eyes it was after he had denied him three times. Now Jesus reinstates him by asking three times, Pater do you love me, then feed my sheep.
What was next for Peter? Feed my sheep
In Matthew’s account the story of the resurrection flows right into Jesus giving the Great Commission to his church. It’s what’s next
Matt 28:16-20 – Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
And then, 40 days later – he reminds them of the assignment and then he ascends back to the Father.
Acts 1:8-9 – you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.
So in the middle of this account of the ascension of Jesus we have this command, in fact it’s the last command he gives before he departs. What’s next? Go, make disciples, don’t stop till you’ve reached the ends of the earth.
Matt 24:14 – And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
The disciples were hoping to go to the end of the story without the proclamation part. Jesus said not till you have finished the assignment I gave you will the kingdom be ushered in.
Now last week in my Easter message, I emphasized the fact that the resurrection changes everything. But if we are honest, there are times when it seems nothing has changed. Rome was still over Jerusalem, persecution broke out against the church. Today people still get cancer and terrorists still terrorize the world. So what did it change really?
It changed you and it changed me. It changed a small group of followers into a community filled by the power of Christ through the Holy Spirit. And this company of the resurrected is still bringing transformation into the world much like Jesus did, in small, hidden, subversive ways that the world pays little attention to.
So what’s next? – feed his sheep, make disciples by baptizing and teaching the ways of Jesus. Seems too simple to make a difference in the world, and yet it is Jesus way to build a church in which the gates of hell cannot prevail against it.
Walter Wink said, “killing Jesus was like trying to destroy a dandelion seed-head by blowing on it”. The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus just spread the seeds of the kingdom as they are carried along by the wind of the Spirit. Those seeds are you and me and a multitude of others throughout history and around the world.
Jesus never started a dynasty, he never wrote books and even pamphlets, left nothing to enshrine in a museum, the only thing he left was a new humanity called the church. The only traces of Jesus in the world are his people. That was his plan
The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins got it right:
Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.
Where is Jesus today? – he is alive in and through his people by the Holy Spirit and he is at the right hand of the father interceding for us as we feed his sheep and make his disciples with his complete power and authority.
I sometimes wonder, since he hung out on earth for 40 days, why not just stay here. After all he’s coming back – so why leave. Wouldn’t we all be encouraged if we could actually see him in person or giving messages on Jesus TV?
John 16:7 – Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.
How could it possibly be to our advantage if Jesus goes? Because he is taking things to a new level. Instead of Jesus beside us, it becomes Jesus in us through the Holy Spirit.
Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sin. Jesus rose from the dead to conquer death and demonstrate that his death was acceptable to the Father, and now – what’s next? The ascension of Jesus which empowers the church by the Holy Spirit to spread the goodnews of the Kingdom.
Jesus is empowering his church to feed his sheep and go into the world and make disciples. The church is to fulfill the mission of Christ in the world and we are to do it Christ’s way.
2 Cor 5:20 – Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
Transition: Our world is changing fast. And the church in the west seems to be in trouble. There have been many predictions about the church of the future – what will need to change to survive.
II. Future Church
In a recent Verge Conference, several leaders were asked the question, “What is the future of the church in America.” Here are some of the responses:
Leonce Crump – “I believe we have done church the same way for so long that the idea of a new yet simultaneously ancient form of doing church is almost inconceivable. The idea of living in natural rhythms of life in community. The idea that the Sunday gathering isn’t the end all, be all, the big show, got to get everybody in. The idea of being sent rather than saying ‘come to us.’ Some of those things are almost inconceivable, because church to some degree has become industry. It’s become an easy desk job for intelligent men who don’t want to work with their hands, but for who may not necessarily have a vision for changing the world wit this powerful message of the Gospel.
And I think unless we re-conceptualize from the scriptures what the church was intended to be—a body of people, a body of believers moving toward the reign of God while proclaiming the goodness and glory and grace of God to those who are not embracing the reign of God—then I think we’re going to continue to drift into irrelevance…as long as Christianty is politicized, as long as people are marginalized, as long as church is a place that you go to rather than an identity of who you are, I think the future of the church in America is bleak. We will be trapped into more and more trying to get people in our doors and doing less and less to proclaim the good news of the gospel
Alan Hirsh – “…perhaps best understood by phrasing it ‘what are the futures of the church in America today.’ There are elements of the church in America that are destine to fail and indeed I think need to. There are aspects of it that are deeply religious and damaging and distorting. And I’m hoping that Jesus is going to close their doors…I’m so excited, because I think there are elements of Christianity in America that are really engaging. What we call the missional church movement, I think is some of the best expression. People who take the Gospel seriously who are willing to take it out and share it in an engaging way, in a friendly way, a way that makes sense to people round about us. Jesus will sort out His church. There will be a future for the church in America and more than that I’m very hopeful actually that the future is good. The signs are good! I’m amazed.”
The irony is that the best way towards the future is to walk down the ancient paths.
Jer 6:16 paints a perfect picture of our situation – This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.
There are so many pathways in Christianity today, so many divergent roads. You should be purpose driven, full gospel, spirit-filled, emergent, progressive, Calvinistic, Armenian, Reformed, Post-modern, Evangelical, post-evangelical, and that doesn’t even include denomination differences. – I started to just ask – does this truth bring the most Glory to God? Does it make Christ look glorious, beautiful, exalted? Or is it pretty much geared to me and my preferences, my reason, my preferences and experiences?
In these last days, we must stick to sound doctrine and be very discerning because Satan and his false teachers will only increase. Don’t be led astray by your own desire for comfort and ease.
Transition: Well let’s bring all this home. What does all this mean for the future of Crestmont? I’m glad you asked
This September, we will be celebrating our 50th anniversary as a church. 50 years! And so we put together a team of people to start planning for this big event in our history.
Coming together we had several concerns:
a. It was essential to me that this celebration be about the head of the church and not the church itself. In other words, I wanted it to be all about Jesus! What Jesus has done in the past through this church and not look at all that we have done. There have been so many great things happen here and we want to give credit where credit is due – Jesus said without me you can do nothing.
b. We wanted it to be so much more than simply a reunion of past members getting together to reminisce about the good ole days. We have to be honest about our past – fact is there have been great seasons and not so great seasons. I would be willing to bet that there isn’t a single church in Burleson that doesn’t have an ex-Crestmont member in it. In fact, we have staffed many of the churches in this community. We have hurt people and have been hurt by people. We want to heal and mend relationships, seek forgiveness and forgive and then move forward.
c. Third, we wanted to have a clear focus on the future of the church while paying tribute to what God has done in the past. We didn’t want to spend a fortune on an event that left those of us who are here exhausted and broke while everyone else said thanks and then bailed. We welcome all who want to come
d. Finally, we wanted this event to be redemptive in nature. Healing wounds from the past in order to move into our future with God.
I believe that the past several years God has been pruning his church. Have you ever seen a pruned bush or tree – it’s not real pretty, looks pretty bare bones. You might think the pruner ruined it by cutting away all the healthy look leaves and branches.
But here’s the thing, God is not looking for leaves, he wants fruit. And though pruning is painful and ugly at first, it opens the way for new growth and more fruit than ever possible before the pruning. I think God has done that to us as a Christ and is doing it across our nation.
Way may be smaller, but we are healthier. We have been shaped by the gospel. God has trimmed away leaves of legalism and branches of consumerism and disunity. I think we are at a prime place to become fruitful for the glory of God.
Now fruitful may not look like it used to, it has to be measured by the Word of God not the business results of the world. We must use a different scorecard.
So, having said all of that, come this September we are going to be celebrating the Crestmont Year of Jubilee. The year of Jubilee was to be celebrated in the Bible every 50 years.
Jesus first recorded sermon was on the subject of the year of Jubilee:
Luke 4:16-21 – And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
His sermon text was from Isa. 61 which is about the year of jubilee. The year of Jubilee is further described in Leviticus 25 – it was to kick off on the day of atonement – when the lambs were slaughtered.
And every 50th year – all land and property was returned to the owners, all debts were cancelled, all prisoners were set free, the land itself was given a year off to recover, you were to take in the poor to your home. It was a year of healing, a year of redemption, a year of forgiveness, a year of grace, a year of new beginnings.
However, there’s just one problem. The Jews never celebrated it. It was just too economically difficult. But then Jesus comes along, starting his ministry declares, today this scripture has been fulfilled.
What is Jesus saying> He is declaring that he is the jubilee – that in him, the debts are cancelled, the prisoners are set free, the blind can see again. In Jesus there is healing, there is freedom from the debts of the past, there is newness of life.
SO to say we are celebrating a year of Jubilee is another way of saying we are celebrating Jesus. We are going to let him heal us from the wounds of our past, both the ones we have inflicted and the ones we have borne, We are cancelling the debts of past pain, we are seeking a fresh vision and we are moving into a new beginning.
It is time for us to move into the future that God has prepared for us. It is time to stop being defined by the past. There will always be those who try to do that but they are not here. We will be defined by the Gospel.
So, what will this celebration look like?
It will be Christ-centered
It will be joyful
It will be missional
It will remember the past in gratitude and repentance it will set our sights on Jesus.
On Saturday night we will have a come and go reception. On Sunday we will have a an extended celebration lasting through Sunday School and Worship service times using a liturgy based on Hab. 3:2 –
LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.
Afterwards we will have a giant BBQ and we will invite our neighbors as well as past members. We want to love our neighbors as part of a new expression of our future. We want this to have a missional element.
50 days prior to this even, we will have 50 days of prayer which you will be hearing much more on.
Now this is called the year of jubilee, not just a day of jubilee. This celebration is simply a launching pad and not a landing pad. So every month we will have Jubilee mission opportunities that we will be doing for the love of our community and beyond. We are going to just show the love of Jesus.
Now I think this is also a great time to do some things that will help us be affective in our future of going and making disciples:
We need to make prayer job 1.
Here is something I have learned through the years about leading a church:
Prov 16:3 & 9 – Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans…
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.
We can establish plans and strategies and visions but we should do so loosely knowing that God’s ways are not like our ways most of the time. Did we ever sit down and say this year let’s sponsor a missionary family from our own ranks in one of the most ISIS terrorized places on the earth. When did we ever say, “this year let’s open up our facilities to another church, preferably a black church. We pray for growth and God says OK have a whole church join you. Prayer is aligning ourselves to God’s agenda.
We need to recover a sense of mystery and transcendence.
We need to see our neighborhood as an extension of our ministry and mission
We need to become intentional about building community. Friends are not the 500 people who follow you on Facebook. We need to build authentic relationships that are inclusive, based on real love and grace and mutual care. The technological age has ironically made us lonely, we need to connect with others.
We need to teach parents to doctrinally train their own children through the age old practice of catechesis.
What is that? J.I. Packer – “Catechesis is the church’s ministry of grounding and growing God’s people in the Gospel and its implications for doctrine, devotion, duty, and delight.”
Wisdom and humility demand that we consider what our brothers and sisters through the ages have done by way of catechizing and discipling, and test the merit of these efforts by consideration of the biblical data. We are most unwise to try to continually reinvent the catechetical wheel or to assume that we are more likely than our forebears to be faithful to Scripture.
We need to develop a new leadership structure that’s based on Scripture and not American democracy or denominational traditions. That means we need to raise up and train godly leaders.
We need to become more intentional about Spiritual formation. Form our staff around following Jesus.
We need to all join Jesus on mission. So every month during this year long emphasis we are going to have a new mission opportunity for you and your family to be a part of.
Jubilee is about cancelling debts, setting prisoners free, brand new starts = so we are going to do that
So I ask that you will join us as we begin to pray through all those details and strategies. I ask that you be willing to give to make this a reality. And I ask that you keep an open mind and open heart to doing new things. This is an exciting time, a time to join God in the future of what he is doing through his church.
And for all those nay sayers out there who think the church has seen its last days, or whose best days are behind us – I point you to this picture of the church at the end of the present darkness:
Rev 7:9-10 – After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12saying, “Amen!